Health

Medicare Plans to Pay Doctors for Counseling on End of Life

Refusal of treatment form (Jacob Windham/Flckr/CC By 2.0)
Refusal of treatment form (Jacob Windham/Flckr/CC By 2.0)

Pam Belluck, THE NEW YORK TIMES

(The New York Times) — Medicare, the federal program that insures 55 million older and disabled Americans, announced plans on Wednesday to reimburse doctors for conversations with patients about whether and how they would want to be kept alive if they became too sick to speak for themselves.

The proposal would settle a debate that raged before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when Sarah Palin labeled a similar plan as tantamount to setting up “death panels” that could cut off care for the sick. The new plan is expected to be approved and to take effect in January, although it will be open to public comment for 60 days.

Medicare’s plan comes as many patients, families and health providers are pushing to give people greater say about how they die — whether that means trying every possible medical option to stay alive or discontinuing life support for those who do not want to be sustained by ventilators and feeding tubes.

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